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Can Dry Eyes Cause High Eye Pressure? in

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A man inside an office pushing his glasses up to rub his eyes with his fingers.

Many of us have been there at some point—blurry vision, irritated eyes, and light sensitivity—all while trying to focus and make it through the day. 

With how uncomfortable dry eye symptoms can get, it’s valid to wonder if the condition could lead to a more serious complication like high eye pressure. Fortunately, dry eye is not linked to an increased risk of high intraocular pressure, but it is still important that this often chronic condition is treated promptly to prevent further discomfort and other complications, such as inflammation of the cornea or infection.

What Is Dry Eye Disease?

Dry eye disease is often referred to as simply dry eye. It is a condition that occurs when your tears are not able to adequately lubricate the surface of your eyes.  As the name implies, a common symptom is dry, scratchy feeling eyes. There are two primary types of dry eye, which are differentiated by their underlying cause.  .

Aqueous deficiency dry eye is characterized by inadequate tear production. This lack of tears can lead to uncomfortable symptoms, such as eye irritation or watery eyes. Age is a major cause of this form of dry eye. It can also be caused by medications or other medical conditions, such as Sjogren’s syndrome, an immune system disorder that can affect tear glands.

In contrast, evaporative dry eye has little to do with how many tears are produced. Rather, it is related to your tear film mixture. Your tear film should have a mixture of water, mucin, and oil. Sometimes a condition such as meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) reduces the amount of oil in your tears, which causes your tears to evaporate off the surface of the eye too quickly. Poor blinking or mispositioned eyelids can also contribute.

Evaporative dry eye is the most common form, but many people have a combination of both types.

Symptoms of Dry Eye Disease

Although there are multiple causes for dry eye, many of the symptoms are common to all causes. Some common symptoms of dry eye include:

  • Scratchy, gritty sensation
  • Blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Trouble wearing contact lenses
  • Irritated eyes
  • Burning
  • Eye redness
  • Feeling like something is in your eye
  • Watering eyes
  • Stringy discharge
A man inside an office pushing his glasses up to rub his eyes with his fingers.

Treating Dry Eye

There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to treating dry eye. What works for one person may not work for another—even with the same cause. Dry eye treatment can revolve around symptom relief as well as addressing underlying causes.

At-Home Treatment

  • Eye drops: If you have chronic dry eye, preservative-free eye drops may help prevent irritation and reduce discomfort. Eye drops are the first line of treatment for many dry eye cases.
  • Warm compresses: A heated mask or warm compress that gently warms the meibomian glands may provide relief from dry eyes by helping increase blood flow to your eyes, adding moisture, and improving gland function.
  • Lifestyle changes: Sometimes, increasing certain vitamins or minerals in your diet can help alleviate dry eyes. Omega-3 fatty acids are the best supplement for dry eye as they help improve meibomian gland function and the quality of oil secretions. Vitamins A, C, and E, zinc, and lutein are also linked to improved eye health. Staying hydrated is also helpful in preventing dry eyes, as well as being mindful of blinking habits. Sustained visual activity (such as computer work) reduces the rate of blinking. Taking a break a couple of times each hour to focus on proper blinking for a couple of minutes can help minimize dry eye symptoms. 

In-Office Treatments

In more advanced cases of dry eye, several in-office treatments may be an option for you:

  • Zocular eyelid system treatment (ZEST): One successful approach to treating dry eye is eyelid cleaning. Zest is an okra-infused product that gently cleans oils, debris, and residue from your eyelid margins.
  • Intense pulsed light (IPL): IPL can improve meibomian gland functionality and help relieve dry eyes using pulsed light. There are also some aesthetic benefits that IPL can provide for the skin around your eyes.
  • Low-level light therapy (LLLT): LLLT is another light-based therapy that can effectively stimulate the meibomian glands to treat MGD. This therapy uses long-wavelength red or blue light between 390 to 1100 nm.
  • LipiFlow: Rather than stimulating the meibomian glands with light, LipiFlow uses gentle heating and massage to loosen and remove debris that may be clogging the glands.
  • Radio frequency (RF): RF is a cosmetic treatment that can reduce fine lines and wrinkles. It can also be an effective method for clearing blocked meibomian glands to treat dry eyes.

Discuss Your Symptoms with Your Eye Doctor

While dry eye disease may not cause increased eye pressure, it can still result in other complications and cause uncomfortable symptoms. You don’t have to continue suffering from dry eyes. Book an appointment with one of our optometrists to get eye care treatments that can provide lasting relief.

Written by Dr. Anita Voisin, OD

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